Afternoon Edition: Aug. 31, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

SHARE Afternoon Edition: Aug. 31, 2020
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot offered updated figures today for the fiscal challenges the city will face this year and next.

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition

Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

It’ll be a sunny afternoon with a high near 85 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 64 degrees. Tomorrow, we could see some rain in the afternoon amid partly sunny skies and a high near 78.

Top story

City’s 2020 shortfall estimate grows to nearly $800 million, with $1.2 billion budget hole expected next year

Mayor Lori Lightfoot today blamed rising coronavirus case levels in Chicago and two rounds of looting for a dramatic increase in the city’s budget shortfall — from $700 million to nearly $800 million this year — and a whopping $1.2 billion hole expected in 2021.

The “seismic disruption” of Chicago’s economy is so great, Lightfoot called the 2021 spending plan a “pandemic” budget that can be balanced only with replacement revenues from Washington, concessions from city unions and new revenues that are likely to include the personal property lease tax on computer leases. The mayor noted the tax has seen “historical growth” that is likely to continue as people keep working from home.

For weeks after the shutdown, Lightfoot insisted Chicago was well-positioned to weather the storm of increased costs and declining revenues tied to the coronavirus pandemic. She repeatedly said “no one revenue stream is more than 13%” and that all of the “economically sensitive” revenues together total just 25%.

On April 7, the mayor changed her tune, acknowledging a massive shortfall that might require raising taxes was possible.

Two months later, she said that the stay-at-home shutdown of the Chicago economy triggered by the coronavirus had blown a $700 million hole in her precariously-balanced, 2020 budget — and she refused to rule out a property tax increase.

Today, the comprehensive financial analysis that replaced Chicago’s preliminary budget pegged the 2020 shortfall at nearly $800 million and next year’s gap at a daunting $1.2 billion.

Why the increase?

“Our rising case levels have hampered our city’s economic recovery. … Restaurants, bars hotels, entertainment venues of all sizes — from small independent clubs to large concerts and tours, conventions and tourism, hotels and all of the other related businesses — are still hurting because COVID-19 is still here and on the rise. There is a direct cause and effect,” the mayor said today.

“Also affecting the recovery was looting and damage to our businesses that occurred three months ago and again more recently. The damage done was not just about shattered windows and lost inventory. The criminals who broke into stores helping themselves to someone else’s property shattered hopes and dreams and confidence in Chicago as a place that can sustain lives and livelihoods. Fear begets fear.”

To close the gaping hole in her 2020 budget, Lightfoot said she plans to leverage funding from the first round of federal stimulus funds, authorize yet another round of debt refinancing and borrowing and authorize unspecified cuts.

Read Fran Spielman’s full story.

More news you need

  1. Ten people were killed and 45 more, including two Chicago police officers and a 15-year-old boy, were wounded in shootings across Chicago over the weekend. The latest fatal attack left one man dead and four other people injured at a restaurant in Morgan Park yesterday afternoon.
  2. Jeffon Williams, 19, has been charged with seven counts of attempted murder for allegedly shooting two Chicago police officers on the West Side yesterday. Williams, who lives in Austin, was also shot.
  3. Chicago officials are working on a plan to offer free child care for at least the first quarter of the upcoming school year as the shift to remote learning is expected to strain working class families. The plan will include sites across the city where parents can drop off their children to do their school work during the day.
  4. Mayor Lori Lightfoot today acknowledged the role she has played in widening Chicago’s political divide and vowed to do her part to “change the tone of our discourse.” “I need to push myself harder to work with people with whom I do not agree and who do not agree with me,” she said in a rare moment of self-criticism and reflection.
  5. The dramatic decline in tourism taxes triggered by the coronavirus pandemic has increased the state’s debt service burden, a “credit negative,” a Wall Street rating agency warned today. The agency reported that August hotel, restaurant and other tax revenue used to back its bonds plunged by 85%, compared to the same period a year ago.
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A bright one

Tour of city after George Floyd protests leads to father-son book, ‘Boarded Up Chicago’

In late May, a Flossmoor teen got money from his family for his eighth-grade graduation. The budding photographer spent it on a $200 camera, a Canon PowerShot.

Soon after, George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. Protests followed, along with looting and destruction. As the 14-year-old’s father, who lives in South Shore, contemplated the aftermath, he thought of a creative way to bond with his son in this strange new world of pandemic and protests.

“I’d noticed after the riots that graffiti artists started tagging the board-ups, and other artists were using them as canvasses,” said 47-year-old attorney Christopher Slaughter. “So I said, Zach, you’ve got this camera, let’s go ride around and take a look at this stuff,” Slaughter said. “It was a chance to spend time together, talk about all that was going on.”


Christopher Slaughter and his 14-year-old son Zachary, a budding photographer.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The result? “Boarded Up Chicago: Storefront Images Days After The George Floyd Riots,” a photo book by the father and son duo that contains more than 200 images of the beauty that artists created from trauma.

“I’m into art, so it was pretty cool to see all the different art styles across the different city neighborhoods and compare like the themes on the South Side vs. themes on the North Side,” said Zachary, a freshman at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. “It inspired me.”

Read the full story from Maudlyne Ihejirika here.

From the press box

With less than two weeks until the Bears’ season opener, beat reporters Mark Potash and Patrick Finley gave their perspectives on the state of the team right now. Read Potash’s analysis here and Finley’s analysis here.

The Bears also found some help at running back with David Montgomery on the mend by signing rookie Napoleon Maxwell this morning. Maxwell ran for over 2,000 yards as a back at FIU.

Your daily question ☕

What do you think about on Mondays to keep you motivated for the week ahead?

Email us (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Friday, we asked you: What activities have you been able to enjoy outside while respecting social distancing guidelines? Here’s what some of you said…

“Biking on the lakefront. I would go nuts if I couldn’t be near the lake’s calming influence.” — Yvette Coleman-Pitts

“Walking in the beautiful Chicago parks. Before this, I wanted to but never had the chance. The Lakefront Trail and Washington Park are now my favorites.” — Sherronda Bohanon

“Exploring my community while walking my dog. Reading and having tea on my balcony with my dog.” — Sylvia Bridges

“Camp fires and s’mores with friends in our backyard and hiking at the nature preserves. Our kids went zip lining for the first time.” — Melissa McGillivray Johnson

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition.Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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